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New Era for Scotland's Seas

SCOTLAND - The Marine Bill has been backed by Parliament, 'heralding a new era' for Scotland's seas.

Main measures in the Bill, which was passed by MSPs this afternoon, include:

  • A National Marine Plan to give greater clarity to decision making in the marine environment and encourage investment
  • A simpler licensing system to cut bureaucracy and introduce efficiencies to encourage economic investment and growth
  • New powers to select and manage Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) to enhance marine biodiversity and preserve historic assets
  • Much improved protection for seals, including a comprehensive licence system and tougher penalties for those who harm seals
  • New responsibilities for safeguarding the health of all Scottish waters out to 200 nautical miles (nm) - in addition to responsibility for marine planning out to 200 nm

Environment Secretary Richard Lochhead said: "This is a momentous day for Scotland's marine environment. Scotland's history is closely connected to the sea and our spectacular resource rich waters have helped shape our nation. Our first Marine Bill marks the beginning of a new era for our seas.

"Our seas are home to some of the world's most precious wildlife and stunning habitats, and support tens of thousands of jobs by powering our nation through wind and wave. This new framework will ensure that our seas continue to oil our economy and put food on our tables, however new challenges such as climate change require new approaches. We must modernise in order to meet increasing and competing demands on our seas.

"Judging by the public's response to this Bill, more people than ever before are interested in our seas. We have listened to their views and will now focus on delivering improvements.

"We are learning of exciting new developments in our seas all the time. Our new marine planning system will provide better information to inform investment decisions and help attract additional investment. It's also a vital tool in protecting our marine flora and fauna and historical assets.

"The Bill will introduce a new licensing and reporting system to toughen up protection for seals. Restrictions on the shooting of seals are to be extended throughout the year and penalties increased. Many myths have been perpetuated on this issue, but the truth is Scotland is taking tough and decisive action to protect our seals.

"This Bill will also help Scotland tackle climate change and protect Scotland's unique marine environment for future generations. Climate change objectives are to be included in our national marine plan to help Scotland meet its world-leading emission targets. The legislation can play a key role in developing Scotland's booming renewables industry. But let me be very clear - delivering faster economic growth will not come at a cost to our stunning marine environment."

Convenor of Scottish Environment LINK Marine Task Force, Calum Duncan said: "After almost ten years of campaigning, it is great that the Scottish Parliament has passed a bill that will improve the health of Scotland's seas. We particularly welcome the duty to protect and enhance our seas, a marine planning system that includes environmental targets and a duty to deliver a network of marine protected areas.

"As the sea knows no boundaries, future management must also join-up with the UK Marine Act and EU legislation. Now we look forward to helping the Scottish Government implement the bill, improving the health of our seas for the long-term benefit of marine wildlife, coastal communities, sustainable activities and all who enjoy the food, recreation and energy it provides."

Johanna Yates, Marine Policy Manager at Scottish Renewables said: "Offshore renewables are Scotland's ace in the fight to grow jobs while we tackle the threat of climate change. The Marine Bill is a significant step towards a new way of working in our seas, which will aid the effective deployment of offshore renewables in the years to come."

Ian Jardine, Chief Executive of Scottish Natural Heritage said: "Scotland's seas are rich and special but they are also under growing pressure. The passing of the Scottish Marine Bill is a turning point. It gives us new tools to manage our seas so that we all benefit from this vast resource. We particularly welcome provisions for marine planning and Marine Protected Areas. These should help us to achieve healthier seas that support wildlife, employment and enjoyment, and contribute to Scotland's future prosperity."

Scotland's seas generate industry worth around £22 billion (£2.2 billion excluding oil and gas) and provide 50,000 jobs in Scotland (excluding oil and gas).

Scotland's seas support approximately 6,500 species of plants and animals (44,000 if microbial species are included).

Scotland holds a quarter of Europe's total tidal and offshore wind resource and 10 per cent of its potential in wave power. By 2020 it is anticipated that over 7GW of power will be generated from these renewable energy sources, equivalent to nearly 50 per cent of Scotland's electricity consumption.

Scotland is the world leader in the development of wave and tidal stream devices. The European Marine Energy Centre based in Orkney is the world's first wave and tidal testing facility. Offshore renewables will experience huge growth over the next 10 years, with approximately £30 billion set to be invested in Scottish waters.

On seals, the Bill will make it an offence to kill or take any seal at any time, except under specific licence or for animal welfare reasons. Restrictions on shooting seals will be extended to apply throughout the year. There will be additional protection for seals against harassment at major haul-outs. Penalties for any breaches of the law will be brought into line with other wildlife legislation. The Bill will be accompanied by a new seal licence system.

There are large numbers of seals in Scottish waters, about 164,000 grey seals and a minimum of 20,000 common seals. This represents about 90 per cent of the UK population of both species and around 45 per cent of the EC population.

the Fish Site Editor

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